Fanny Fitzwilliam Palmer Austen

January 8, 2013 at 7:28 am (books, diaries, history, jane austen, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As readers will know from my earlier discussion of Deborah Kaplan’s Jane Austen Among Women, the book gives a wealth of information about the female relatives and neighbors of the Austen family – for my purposes, Eliza Chute and her sister-in-law Mary Bramston; Eliza’s mother Sarah Smith; and Eliza’s bosom friend Eliza Gosling. But re-reading the book after MANY years, I am drawn even more into the Austen family — young Fanny Knight; her governesses Miss Chapman and Miss Sharp; and a brief mention of Uncle Charles’ Bermuda-born wife Fanny Palmer.

It sinks in today, seeing her listing at Stanford, that Fanny’s middle name was Fitzwilliam…. Indeed… (Le Faye, of course, does mention that fact).

I did a little looking around, for there is mention of letters at the Morgan Library — one place I would be able to visit if the Leon Levy Fellowship at CUNY came through! Here’s an image of Fanny Palmer Austen from the blog Mansfield Park: Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Novel:

fanny palmerMiss Sneyd’s wonderful post is entitled the Fanny Hall of Fame (do read all the parts; & intro, too); indeed, I could add a Fanny or two myself! Miss Sneyd handily includes Fanny Palmer’s link at the peerage dot com; here she is at Stanford. Ellen Moody touches on Fanny’s death (and “colonial” relations in general).

As to the Pierpont Morgan Library; it took a while, but there finally were Fanny Austen’s few letters. They exist at the Morgan thanks to a bequest by Gordon N. Ray — the same source as the Walter Scott novels illustrated by the Compton siblings! The letters date from the period 1810-1814.

Readers all joke, So Little Time, So Many Books – in research the same holds, but distance and money are factors harder to overcome than simple lack of time. Someday…


  1. ellenandjim said,

    This is a fine blog and I’ll tell people about it. Ellen

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Thanks Ellen – a fine compliment, coming from you; I’m a big fan of your work.


      • Ron Dunning said,

        Hello Kelly

        I’d come across your blog in the past, but not looked properly. Ellen’s post on WWTTA, mentioning Frances Fitzwilliam Palmer, caught my eye, and I went back for a look. I’m a 4th-great-grandson of Frank Austen, and my obsession is with the family’s genealogy. My first impression is that it’s one of your interests. If nothing else, some of your articles are certainly of interest to me, and I’ve signed up.

        I haven’t discovered where the Fitzwilliam name comes from – not from her father’s maternal line, but I haven’t discovered much about his paternal line, nor anything about her mother’s side. Have you seen Janine Barchas’s book, “Matters of Fact in Jane Austen”? I’ve just bought it, and haven’t read it; but she makes much of the aristocratic Fitzwilliams. You can see my pedigree of Frances Palmer, such as it is, here:
        I’ve pasted a statement about marrying a deceased wife’s sister on Charles’s page:

        Ron Dunning

      • Janeite Kelly said,

        Hi, Ron — So glad you wrote.

        I don’t do a lot with the Austens, per se; my interest began with Mary Gosling (her early travel diary beginning in 1814) rather hooked up with Emma Smith when it turned out that Mary married Emma’s eldest brother. Certainly due to the Austen-connection, Emma’s family’s materials are at the Hampshire Record Office, for she married James son James Edward.

        The Austen Leighs were certainly interested in genealogy. My interest was in Emma’s side of the family, so I can’t swear what’s at HRO for the Austen side. IF anything like the Smiths, there might be items of use to you. I remember this large-scale “pies” going back generation after generation. I find the current HRO online catalogue ponderous to use (bring back what they had!), but wrote down the call number: 23M93/87/4/3 – looking it up I see HRO specifies the “Smith family”: Folder containing genealogical notes and family trees for the Smith family, probably in the hand of Emma Austen-Leigh.

        It’s hard to say what something like this might contain:

        Folder containing a variety of notes on family history, certified copies of parish register entries, monumental inscriptions, family trees etc. in various unidentified hands, concerning the various branches related to the Austen family
        nd [19th-20th centuries]

        There is a notation: See also items 24M93/84/2/1-2, 24M93/87/4/3 and 24M93/97/5/4-7 for other genealogical material, in identified hands

        ….84/2/1: ‘Uncle Henry’s recollections of old Francis Austen’ nd [19th century]
        ….84/2/2: Notes on Leigh Perrot family history, undated nd

        24M93/97/5/ items 4 and 5 might be the most promising (from R.A. Austen Leigh): Fragment of biographical work on the Austen family 2 copies, undated nd [20th century] and especially item 5 — Exercise book containing notes on Austen genealogy, undated nd [20th century]

        Of course I may be telling you about items you’ve already seen!

        No, I didn’t know Janine had a book out. She gave a fabulous talk at the Philadelphia AGM for JASNA in 2009 – on miniaturists. The talk was far above her write-up of it in Persuasions. I must take a look. Can never collect enough books…

        I’ll take a look at the other (links &c) you’ve sent too. If a particular blog post is of interest, do ask about it — I seldom post the “whole story”

        I don’t suppose you’ve any letters or diaries of the period, which mentions my Smiths (or even the Goslings)???

        Emma’s grandmother Sarah Gilbert (mother’s mother) had Antiguan roots; there was a book I came across once about the history of the island, and it mentioned the Gilberts. So do have a look for those types of long-out-of-pring books. or my preferred (if possible) This particular one had a lengthy pedigree about the family.

        Happy to help in any way I can.


  2. Miss Sneyd said,

    “I could add a Fanny or two myself!” — Please feel free to do so! I’d love to add to my list.

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